Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Unstoppable SRK, Gopi, Jodha-Akbar…

Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan is now called the “Badshah of Bollywood” or King Khan, and his tiff with Big B or Amitbah Bachchan has now become legendary. Bachchan rose to heights of success riding on the popular appeal of a television show called “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire). Modelled on a top-of-the chart American show, the Indian version not just boosted the channel’s ratings, but also gave a shot of fame and fortune to the aging Bachchan. He would have continued but took ill, and the show fell into the lap of Khan, much to the discomfort and annoyance of Big B.

Now, Khan seems unstoppable with the French honouring him with the “Order of Arts et Lettres” in Bombay. The title conferred by French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont in recognition of Khan’s 15-year-old career in Bollywood came as a surprise to the actor. He said he never knew that the French loved him so much, and his only ties with them had been his once-upon-a-time visits to the French Cultural Centre in New Delhi to watch French movies. He was told that they were the best.

For Khan, the timing of the award could not have been better. His “war” with Bachchan was followed by a warning from India’s Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss asking Khan to stop smoking in public places and setting a bad example. Khan was puffing away in the stands when he was watching a cricket match in Bombay.

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Gopi, who died a few days ago, was a brilliant Malayalam actor, who owes his screen career to Adoor Gopalakrishnan. He discovered him in his first film, “Swayamvaram” (One’s Own Choice, 1972). Many people may not remember him as the clerk in a timber shop who loses his job, and later confronts the new employee, played by Madhu. It was in Adoor’s second movie, “Kodiyettam” (The Ascent, 1977), that Gopi burst into prominence. As the protagonist, a drifter, he was the hero without looking an inch of it. The role fetched him his first National Award, and Gopi went on to become one of finest actors the world has ever known. His intense role in G. Aravindan’s “Chidambaram”, opposite no less an actress like Smita Patil, will go down the annals of cinema history as something magnificent. As a loving father, a passionate lover or a village simpleton, he broke the stereotype image of a hero with his dark complexion and almost bald head. It is tragic that Gopi always had a bad health. Some years ago, a stroke at the peak of his career left him handicapped, but after a long gap of eight years, he came back to the screen, taking up parts that suited his physical condition. And he was as great as before.

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Some communities in Rajasthan have opposed Ashutosh Gowariker’s yet-to-be released “Jodha-Akbar”, saying that the film is historically inaccurate. They argue that Queen Jodha was not Akbar’s wife, but Jehangir’s. She was never the princess of Jaipur. I wonder why people are getting so finicky about a mere movie. Anyway, the Aishwarya Rai-Hrithik Roshan starrer is set to open on February 15.

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Tailpiece: Amar Singh, leader of the Samajwadi Party, has named his new bungalow at Gomati Nagar in Uttar Pradesh after Aishwarya Rai. It is called “Aishwarya”. Flattery knows not where to stop.

(Webposted January 31 2008)